Marty McFly didn’t go back to the future to visit Douglas County Colorado in 1985… but if he had he would have likely found himself completely and utterly alone in the beautiful Colorado front range prairie landscape. Back in the day I visited this place every weekend… it was our winter training course for the Leadville Trail 100 race. My running bud and I would leave my house near Arapahoe Road, run down Colorado Blvd past County Line Road and into the prairie wilderness. Somewhere along the line Colorado Blvd. became Daniels Park Road, but there were no signs on that rugged and mostly deserted dirt road. There was nothing out there back then, just the road and the rolling Douglas County terrain. The beautiful rustic stone picnic shelter was positioned perfectly at the summit of Daniels Park Road and made a welcome rest stop about halfway into the long weekend run. It stood alone in those days, forgotten and forsaken at the edge of one of the most amazing views of the Front Range imaginable. There were no fences, no discernible trails and no sign of civilization other than the shelter and a couple of weathered picnic tables. Not too long after those winter runs I moved away from Littleton and never visited Daniels Park again.
Daniels Park actually has quite a history, the land donated by Denver high society member Florence F. Martin with the “The first 37.99 acres were given in 1920, and the second 962.76 acres given in 1937. Today there are still traces of Martin’s house and flower gardens. Ranch buildings remain on the land and demonstrate the architecture of a working 1920s ranch.”, according to the Castle Pines Connection website. Before 1864 Daniels Park Road was a major stagecoach artery between Denver and Pueblo and according to the Connection it is also the place where in 1868 Kit Carson made his final campfire before succumbing to poor health on his way home. Please read the article, it is quite interesting!
In 2007 Denver Mountain Parks and Douglas County teamed up to create the Daniels Park Master Plan to restore the park. Since then the park has become a popular destination for Denver and Douglas County area hikers, photographers, drone pilots and picnic goers. According to dayhikesneardenver.com miles of trails have been developed, overlooks created, restrooms added and plenty of parking provided.
This winter a picture of a beautiful bison rolled through my facebook feed and upon
reading the post I discovered that a bison herd has been added to an enclosed area on the other side of Daniels Park Road and I was reminded of the good memories there. I vowed to return as soon as possible to see the improvements and the bison, and today turned out to be the day that all the factors converged… So early this morning, off the big dog and I went.
I chose to take Highway 67 all the way to Sedalia, through Woodland Park along the headwaters of the Platte River, through Douglas County and finally to Sedalia. From there I turned right along our old training run route and then left or north onto Daniels Park Road. It certainly was not the rough washboard dirt road of old though, now paved and lined with million dollar country mansions. About 5 miles north of there I encountered branch in the road indicating that a turn was required to stay on the route and thus avoiding Castle Pines. How you would get there from the north now is a mystery to me. With the addition of Castle Pines and Highlands Ranch both of which were just an idea back in the day, all the roads have been rerouted and renamed. What was once a straight shot down Colorado Blvd has now morphed into maze of bewildering new pavement.
Eventually the old picnic shelter came into sight, now surrounded by a massive fenced elaborate parking lot which was not that easy to navigate! Back in the day the shelter stood alone, beside the dirt road on a humble unmarked dirt area that passed for a parking lot. Now there are fences everywhere, you can’t go down the ridge at all and there are manicured paths wide enough to drive a truck on that lead you all along the ridge. Since there was no way to go down into the valley below I just snapped a couple of shots and got back in the truck in search of the bison. I imagine it was about a mile up the road to the north when I finally spotted the huge beasts grazing in a fenced field.
It was looking like I wasn’t going to get much photography done with the six foot wire fence in the way but as it turns out the links are far enough apart to squeeze the big 100-400 into and as long as the animals were pretty much straight ahead I was able to capture some images. Unfortunately the best view with the most animals and scenery required about a 45 degree angle today so just as I was about to give up I remembered my swivel viewing screen! I could hold the camera over the fence and look into the view finder! So I pushed the button, the mirror snapped up and out of the way and I was looking over the fence through my beautiful viewfinder! First time in four years I have ever actually used one of the most popular features of this camera model! Fortunately not too long ago I thought I was going to use that feature for something so I got out the manual and researched how to do it. Worked like a charm and saved the day!
Well anyway, it was a great and memorable day, wonderful to visit the place that was such a big part of my life so long ago. I would urge photographers and hikers to visit Daniels Park in any season. The view stretches from probably Longs Peak to Pikes Peak and would be an awesome place to catch a sunset! The animals are also an awesome thing to behold… and if you get too close to the fence you might also hear the mighty huff of one of these Giants of the Plains which will quickly command your respect… and distance!
As always, these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting and also as a myriad of cool gift, tech and household items with an image by #swkrullimaging!